Tremendous triplets: three Canadian athletes make their sporting marks

Golfer Adam Hadwin, figure skater Patrick Chan and tennis player Milos Raonic all made their marks on Canadian sports this week

CALGARY, Alta. Jan. 24, 2017 /Troy Media/ – Maybe Canadians are a little touchy lately, what with all the talk about renegotiating NAFTA and sealing borders. You can see why some might have been upset with their American neighbours when they turned on NBC’s Golf Channel on Saturday hoping to see Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., make a run at the magical 59 score in his third round at the PGA Tour stop in California’s Coachella Valley.

They’d heard that Hadwin had rattled off 11 birdies on his round at the La Quinta Country Club course and were anxious to see how he was doing it. But viewers quickly discovered that the tall foreheads at NBC had neglected to put any cameras on the course. They’d concentrated their efforts instead on the two other courses at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

No doubt producer Tommy Roy and his crew had good reasons to do so, but you could hear Canadians collectively utter a “What the heck?” when they had to follow Hadwin’s progress on the crawl at the bottom of the screen. With Hadwin edging closer to the first 59 ever by a Canadian on the PGA Tour, it looked as if this national moment might go unseen.

NBC finally got a camera over to Hadwin on the 16th tee. They were rewarded by a Hadwin tee shot and the loudest F-bomb ever in televised pro golf from someone overheard around the tee. (They’d have heard a lot more if they’d planted mics beside Canadian sofas as fans waited to finally see Hadwin.)

In the end, the 29-year-old was as good as the moment, dropping a short par putt on the 18th to seal the 59 and a piece of golf history for Canada. I’ve watched a lot of golf for over 50 years and it was amazing to see at least three holes of the single greatest round ever played by someone from Canada.

Yes, it was the third round of an early-season pro-am tournament. He had to back it up with a good round Sunday (he shot a fine 70 to finish second). But if it was so damned easy, everyone would do it.

So where does it rank in Canadian golf history? Mike Weir’s 2003 Masters win in extra holes will be No. 1 until another Canadian pulls on the green jacket or wins another major title. George Knudson’s third round at the 1968 Masters (after which he led the tournament) is up there. You have to put Trinidadian-Canadian Stephen Ames’ dominating final round in winning the 2006 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in the mix, too.

Marlene Stewart Streit’s final round in winning the 1956 U.S. Women’s Amateur and Brooke Henderson’s stunning closing round last year in winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship as an 18-year-old also make our list of unforgettable rounds.

Hadwin now sits comfortably in their midst. In a time where great has come to mean something less, it’s not often you can say you’ve seen greatness – if only for a day.

Hadwin’s heroics are not the only sublime moments for Canadian sports fans this week. Patrick Chan made his case as our greatest male figure skater when he delivered a stunning final skate to win his ninth Canadian men’s title in Ottawa. Again, great is the catch-all for people whose vocabulary is circumscribed by single syllables. But this was, indeed, in a realm of its own.

Chan combines the artistry of Kurt Browning and the bold, assertive style of Elvis Stojko. His confidence when all about him are falling and failing is the truest sign of a champion. Without an 18-month hiatus, he’d have strung together the greatest record ever for a skater (man or women) in this country’s history. Maybe from any nation. Like Hadwin’s 59, what you saw Saturday from Chan was for the ages.

The third leg on this weekend’s greatness triplets still needs a week before we can talk about immortality. But Canada’s top male tennis player, Milos Raonic, has a clear path to something no one from this country has ever achieved: a tennis singles Grand Slam title.

As of this writing, the rocket-serving ace from Richmond Hill, Ont. (he uses Monaco as his residence now for tax purposes) is preparing to play Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. His assurance and poise so far have been remarkable. But he’s also shown touch and change of pace that he’s rarely demonstrated in his massive serve-and-volley style.

Making Raonic’s chances even more promising are stunning losses by No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic and No. 2 seed Andy Murray, and the fading of superstars Roger Federer and Nadal. This path for Raonic, minus top seeds, is how you can often find your first Grand Slam.

Raonic notoriously has injury issues and even a little stumble in form in the final eight will get you sent home. But it’s fair to say there could be a little more Canadian sports history made next weekend in Australia if he stays on course.

And you can say you witnessed it – at least on television. And you can expect to see more of Raonic’s brilliance than we managed to see of Hadwin on Saturday.

Troy Media columnist Bruce Dowbiggin is the host of podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. His career includes successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster. Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.

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